Congressional negotiators neared agreement on a $1.3 trillion spending bill today (March 21) that undercuts President Donald Trump’s $25 billion request for a wall along the Mexican border and spurns the administration’s request for increased funding for immigrant detention facilities and additional border patrol agents.
Efforts to protect young immigrants known as “Dreamers” have again failed, according to several reports, but Democrats appeared likely to sign off on $1.6 billion in border wall funding, albeit with certain conditions, The Washington Post reported, citing anonymous sources.
If the current version of the omnibus spending bill passes, it would stipulate that a majority of border wall funding can only be used for repairs or to build “secondary” barriers where a wall already exists. The remaining money can be used to fund 33 miles of new barriers, but only in the form of levees or border fencing, not the concrete wall prototypes that Trump inspected on a trip to California last week.
Because fiscally conservative Republicans are alarmed by the cost of the omnibus spending measure—domestic spending would increase by $63 billion—and Republican leaders need Democratic votes in both chambers to pass the bill, Democrats have some leverage. They have rejected calls for increased funding for detention facilities and 850 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The measure, according to Roll Call, would not cut federal funding for sanctuary cities and states, jurisdictions that limit cooperation with ICE officials.
Meanwhile, in a meeting with national law enforcement officials yesterday (March 20), Trump chastised sanctuary cities, saying they endanger the country by releasing immigrants with undocumented status.
“Sanctuary cities and states like California put innocent Americans at the mercy of hardened criminals, hardened murderers, in many cases,” said Trump. “Yet House and Senate Democrats voted nearly unanimously in favor of sanctuary cities. Explain that.”
Trump often conflates heightened criminal behavior with undocumented immigration. Numerous studies have debunked that claim; immigrants are less likely to commit crime and be incarcerated than people born in the United States. Other research has examined the high U.S. immigration rates in the 1990s and found that they coincided with a sharp decrease in crime rates.